Gentleman the Member for Gorton made a very interesting proposal. It is as well to talk honestly and frankly upon these matters, and when one tries to follow what has been happening in India in the last few weeks, one feels that there has been an immense amount of what I would call long-range discussion, a lot of vague talk, but very little evidence of that hard intellectual effort which is necessary to find a solution to the essential difficulty to which I have referred.
Before it is any use thinking of a constituent assembly or any other form of general discussion, hard thought has to be devoted to what precisely are the modifications in the Act which would satisfy Congress on the one side and the Moslems on the other. Gentleman suggested that there might be a small meeting of a few representatives of Congress and the Moslem League, sitting down quietly together and thinking out these matters, so that if anything like a constituent assembly were set up, there would be well digested proposals to set before them. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has made an extremely useful contribution by that proposal, and if, as representatives of the British people, we are sending a message to India, we should make it clear that we think that something of that kind is what is required.
I have been in correspondence with some of my Indian friends during the last few weeks and have made a similar suggestion. I do not believe that these conversations with the Viceroy are ever likely to lead to finding a way of taking the next step. Speaking from my own practical experience in India, I feel that the method of the Viceroy engaging in conversations of this kind is not one which is likely to lead to success, because the Viceroy has laid upon him the whole time the pressing responsibility of conducting the day-today administration of India, and he can never forget that responsibility.
No one who has ever lived in India and taken part in the government of India can forget that responsibility. Knowing that if the conversation breaks down one has to go back to one's job of governing and maintaining law and order in India, one cannot talk with the necessary frankness, and one must always be talking with inhibitions and reservations.
This question of how to find an agreement and how to find a form of constitution which will protect minorities and preserve something like democratic structure is a matter which has to be discussed with complete frankness and should be discussed quietly behind closed doors. If Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Jinnah can get together, perhaps with a small body of people, let us say the Prime Ministers or those who have been Prime Ministers of the governments of the various Provinces, if they could get together quietly, with no advertisement of what is occurring and no great promises of what was to come of it, and if they could try to thrash out what exactly are the practical steps which should be taken and how they could be worked out in the form of precise modifications of the Act, then I believe some advance would be achieved.
If the result of a conversation of that kind were only to disclose where the difficulties were, that would be something. And I would add this. I think that at this critical stage in India, which, as my right hon. Friend so clearly pointed out, looks like a situation of almost insoluble difficulty, we—and by "we" I mean the Indians and ourselves—must not be too ambitious in our attempts. What we can hope for is not to find a solution now which will answer for all time, but to find how the next step can be taken which will save us from going over the edge of disaster. I believe that conversations on the lines suggested might be very useful.
They could take place without delay. They would be essentially conversations between Indian groups, but I think their value would be enormously increased if as a sort of independent chairman the chief justice of the Federal Court, Sir Maurice Gwyer , could be brought in. He has a great knowledge of the Indian problem, and enjoys the confidence of all circles.
That suggestion is only a modification of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton himself has proposed. I believe that it is along those lines that the next step—the next modest step—which may save us from disaster can be taken. I want now to add only a few words on what I have referred to as the second difficulty. We are now engaged in this effort, which demands all our collective energy, to save the freedom and peace of the world from Nazi domination. India should remember that, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton in what he said about those passages in Mr.
Nehru's speeches and in the Congress resolutions which made charges that in this war we are fighting for Imperialistic aims. I would add this quotation from the Congress resolution: The recent pronouncements made on behalf of the British Government in regard to India demonstrate that Great Britain is carrying on the war fundamentally for Imperialistic ends, and for the preservation and strengthening of her Empire, which is based on the exploitation of the peoples of India as well as of other Asiastic and African countries.
Is it possible to find words which are a more blatant travesty of the truth? I think we are entitled to say that if the Indians ask us to understand them and their difficulties, they ought to make an effort to understand our situation. As has been so well pointed out, they stand in great danger. It is on our strength that they rely to protect them from that danger. So often one has felt, when discussing these matters with them, that they do not pause to realise themselves what are the assumptions on which they argue, and on which they look forward to attaining their objectives.
Always underlying everything is the assumption that, somehow or other, we are going to save them from disaster. But now we are in a crisis in which we need all our strength to save ourselves as well as them from disaster, and it is hard indeed for us to tolerate the attitude indicated in the passage that I have quoted, or to allow ourselves to be damaged by letting such statements go about the world. Before I close I want to refer to one quotation which was made in that excellent convocation address which Sir Maurice Gwyer delivered at Benares University.
It is a document which I think everybody should read. He quoted this passage from Burke: Refined policy ever has been the parent of confusion and ever will be so long as the world endures. Plain good intention, which is as easily discovered at the first view as fraud is detected at last, is, let me say, of no mean force in the government of mankind. Genuine simplicity of heart is a healing and cementing principle.
Those are words which, I am sure, will appeal to Mr. Perhaps it may seem strange for me to have quoted, for in what I have said I have specially stressed the need of detailed consideration of the problems of the new Constitution, of the problem of finding a basis for the institution of democracy in India. But we must remember that, behind it all, the one thing that really matters is that we should trust each other, and for this purpose that Indians should hear in plain and simple words what is our feeling about the Indian problem to-day.
What then is the sort of message that we should send? That indeed has been well indicated in many of the speeches to-day. It is that we desire, with an intensity which cannot even be surpassed by anything that they themselves feel, that they should find a way of advancing towards their own self-government. We feel further that the one obstacle in the path of that advance is one for which they alone can find the way to surmount. But on the other side I think we have to tell them quite clearly that we have reached a stage where we are standing on fundamentals, on principles which we cannot betray; and that no threat of force, no fear of the difficulties that civil disobedience would mean to us, even though we are engaged in the terrific task of waging this war, would push us from the foundation of those principles to which I have referred.
It must remain a fundamental principle with us that we cannot agree to any scheme for India which we are compelled to believe would mean either the subjection of minorities or the disruption of India into a number of small units warring together. I think we should make that clear.
But having said this there is a final word to add for ourselves. Let this Debate be not merely a prelude to putting the legal seal on a most distressing situation; let it be an occasion when the representatives of the British people show a true understanding of the Indian situation and true sympathy with India's ideals, and pass to them a message of what we mean and an expression of our hope that they will help us to find a solution. I wish to endorse the sentiments which have just been expressed by the hon. Member for Walsall Sir G. I, like the hon. Member, feel that much of what one might have said has been already said.
I do not wish to introduce any note of contention to upset, in any way, the good disposition of the House; but I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without saying that a great measure of the suspicion which is felt towards us in India has some ground. When one throws one's mind back to the declarations of the rights of the Indians, made time after time, one remembers how often they were translated into something with an altogether different meaning.
Years of such treatment as that wears off the patience and optimism of any people. India has had to go through that for a long time. Now we are faced with menacing circumstances in Europe, and it is not too much to say that in this struggle in India there is the possibility of very serious internal strife in that country.
I, for one, looking at the job we have on hand at home, am not ready to take on any further military operations elsewhere if I can help it. In regard to Ireland, it used to be said that "England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity. But apart from the problems of Europe, there are in this House Members who genuinely feel that India should be allowed to progress to fuller national status and the control of her own affairs. How often in this House has one had to listen to speeches about the government of India being given to India. There is always a tendency on the part of people in this House to translate the outlook of people in other countries in terms of the outlook of people in this country.
The complications in India are enormous. It is not our duty to-day to stress these complications, but one must point out that it took generations to mould opinions in India into a common complexion. The general sense of the House is that India should be asked to face the problem herself. I am glad that the House is expressing that opinion, because years ago—if I may say so, in all humility—I expressed that opinion myself.
I used to see Government after Government trying to solve this Indian problem, drawing up constitution after constitution, always with a Western outlook, which was altogether out of harmony with the Eastern outlook. One could see that, whatever constitution was drawn up in this House, it would always meet with impact and severe opposition in India itself. He and a few others always insisted that it would be better, when we were faced with complications in India in attempting to draft a constitution, to throw the responsibility of, as it were, designing the mosaic of an Indian Government largely on the Indian people.
We have to-day heard speeches of Nehru and Jinnah quoted, in contrast with the speech of the Viceroy. Here are all the makings of civil dissolution.
I refuse to believe that there is a responsible Indian in India to-day who, if it came to the final decision, would give his support to any movement which tended to break up the political unity of that country at the moment. I think the Viceroy would be well advised, if there is any message to go from this House to-day, to call the ex-premiers into conference. I am only throwing this out as a suggestion. I would like to see Mr.
Jinnah and Mr. Sapru, for instance, discussing in front of the Viceroy, the outstanding differences between them. Knowing something about both these men and their capacities—they are lawyers who know the whole complexion and all the intricacies of the Indian problem—I can well imagine that it is not beyond possibility that, in conjunction, if you like, with Gandhi and such a prominent person as the ex-Premier of the Punjab, they could find the solution for which this House is now looking.
I frankly state here and now that the British Government have come to a point when they will have to cease attempting to create a constitution without having due regard to the full Indian opinion expressed through the various Indian communities. Something has been said here to-day that we will not tolerate anything that may grow out of these violent statements, but we must not forget that for the last seven months, and even longer, India has been under a constant deluge of the most efficient German propaganda the world has ever known, and they certainly have not put any sympathetic view of the case to the Indian people as far as we are concerned.
GOVERNMENT OF INDIA ACT OF 1935
That has had a great effect. It has aroused strong feelings in people who hitherto were more or less passive as far as this problem is concerned. It behoves the House of Commons to-day, as never before in history, to make it clear to India that we are no longer making promises that we do not wish to fulfil, but that we are so translating our declarations here by asking the Viceroy of India to call within his counsels the responsible representatives of Indian life and to put upon them the solemn duty of finding a solution, and that if that is arrived at we shall give our promise and our pledge to fulfil it to the letter.
That will be the test. I admit there is much talk about Dominion status and about independence. Do not let us enter too much into that test. We all know how the heated Indian, in his passion, sometimes quite a righteous and good passion, will say things in the open public forum, but when he speaks to you in the council or executive committee meetings he is quite another person. I am sure that this House will do something to remove a most dangerous menace in the East if to-day there is a united expression of opinion in this House, of which I think the speeches hitherto are evidence that we really mean to do all we can not to impress upon India our view or our particular design or plan for the constitution, but that we will faithfully do what we can to carry into practice a constitution devised by responsible Indians themselves.
I would appeal to Mr. Gandhi from the Floor of this House. We have come to regard this man as being something more than a politician. We have come to regard him as a man who has some deep philosophic view, not merely of this life, but of the life beyond. His attitude towards politics and social problems is something more than that of the political theorist.
Can we not appeal to him to-day, when this conflict in Europe may possibly spread right across Europe to India, in the name of this deep philosophic and religious faith which he holds, to come not in any spirit of suspicion, but rather in aspirit of co-operation and link up with those of us in this country and in other countries who are willing to enter into common consultation to remove a problem which, though complex and deep-seated, is none the less a human problem and is possible of solution if men of good faith, sincerity and determination are willing to give a hand to the task?
I have very slight competence indeed to advise the House about the Government of India, and I will endeavour not to detain Members for more than a very few minutes. I wish to approach not so much the great main constitutional question which has rightly been the subject of our discussion to-day as some comparatively subsidiary questions. I hope that on this the House will indulge with me for a very few minutes, if I remind hon. Members that I am almost unique in this respect, that I have among my constituents very many who are informed on these matters as none but two or three of us here can be directly, and a very high proportion of whom very frequently write to me and instruct me, or come to see me, about India.
I would like to begin, if I may without patronising, by saying how much I admired the speech of the right hon. Benn , and especially I agree with what was said by him, and by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham Earl Winter-ton about the impossibility of India or anybody else in this world now sitting still and watching the war from a distance, confident that it will have no effect upon them, and how much I agree also with what was said about the issue now being not the question of what is to be done from here about India, but really the issue of endeavouring to reconcile Indians to each other.
I suggest that, if we can do from here very little directly to persuade Indians to agree with each other about the next constitutional step, we may perhaps be able to do something to persuade Indians to agree with each other about something else. On the whole, if you can get people to agree with one another on any topic, and especially upon any great topic, you have taken a very long step towards getting them to agree with one another on some other topic.
I was very glad indeed that we had to-day an official and clear turning down of what may be called the Pakistan proposal. One of the leading Liberals in India wrote to me a short time ago that he thought that things had got to such a stage of exacerbation, almost conflagration, between Moslems and Hindus in India that all we could do in that matter was that, when either side produced something which obviously would not do, we should firmly say, "You cannot expect any help for this from here.
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I will suggest that something more positive might be done if we could do more to persuade Indians to agree with each other and to agree with us about the war, and I want to draw attention to some suggestions with that end. I fully understand that any Government, and perhaps particularly a Government like the Government of India, must always have very great difficulties in conducting propaganda. It is very much easier, obviously, for opposition or for people from outside to conduct propaganda than it is for Government itself.
It has been suggested to me that, in spite of the difficulties, more might be done than is done in respect of what a correspondent of mine calls the village know-all. In almost every village there is someone who sits under a banyan tree, who knows everything about everything, and who is apt to have a very considerable influence. My correspondent's view was that almost everybody in India who was at all politically minded, however much to the right or the left, except actual Communists, was very anxious about Russian intentions in the East, and that Russian influence is succeeding in reaching the man under the banyan tree a great deal more than is at all commonly realised in this country.
I can quite see that that is a very difficult problem for the Central or Provincial Government to deal with, but I suggest that it might be considered whether something could be done to counteract that position. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Burslem Mr. MacLaren referred to the German radio. My information is that there is a great deal of listening to German broadcasts in India but that on the whole the German radio does not have very much influence, although it is a good deal listened to.
I get complaints about its technical superiority to ours, and I would like to ask the right hon. Baronet whether he could not use his influence with the B. It may be that the thing is impossible with the wavelengths available and so on: I do not understand the technique of these things, but I am told that it is much easier to hear German broadcasts in India than it is to hear the British broadcasts, and I hope that the India Office may think it worth while to inquire into that with the officials concerned. We are discussing rather widely the Motion before the House, but I cannot see what broadcasts have to do with it.
I bow to your Ruling. The point I was trying to suggest was this. Gentleman the Member for Gorton reminded us, the House is now, by approving these Proclamations, taking into its hands the responsibility not merely for the constitution of India, but for the provincial Government of India. We are becoming the Parliament which stands behind the Government of India in a sense in which we were for long in the past and have not been in recent years and months.
Therefore, it seemed to me that it was relevant, with all respect, to suggest that in endorsing these Proclamations we should consider that kind of point as deserving the attention of our Ministers now being given these powers, but I do not wish to delay the House, and I will not pursue the matter further. I think it will be felt that every speaker in this Debate has made a valuable and positive contribution, and that there has been a spirit of real unity underlying all differences of outlook, which, I hope, may be helpful in India, as it is here.
We do need in a dark hour to look at the hopeful aspect of this immense national and international problem, and the hopeful signs are there. I see them in some of the words that have fallen from the Under- Secretary of State for India. He necessarily, with his big cares of office upon him, has to dwell on the graver aspects of the great problem he is facing, but he left it not without hope. I think it is significant that he dealt with quotations from Mr.
Gandhi which showed the remarkable character of a man whose personality may give hope for a solution which might otherwise not be possible to obtain. I think there was hope, too, in the way that he obviously wishes to safeguard the rights of the religious and cultural minorities.
He made it quite clear that the present demand made by Mr. Jinnah, in the name of the Moslem League, for autonomous sovereign States formed on a religious and cultural basis could be no solution. There is, too, ground for hope because it clears away from the horizon something which would lead us astray in our search for a solution. There is also great room for hopefulness in the suggestion made by the right hon. Benn , in his remarkable speech, and which was taken up on all sides of the House.
Surely it is a landmark that the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham Earl Winterton gave his general endorsement to that suggestion and that it was further developed by the hon. Schuster , who also made a noteworthy speech. As a result of this Debate it has been made clear, I think, that there would be a welcome on the part of Parliament for the coming together of a small group of representative Indians, representing not only Congress but the Moslem League and any other important minority, with Mr. Gandhi as the leading figure. If they could work out the next steps by general agreement, the British Government would welcome, I believe, the adoption of any necessary legislative Measures to carry out that agreement.
I think it is an important thing that there should be so much unity on that suggestion. If we can once get that step taken, and a spirit of trust established, a great thing will have been done. But it cannot be established by a mere paper constitution. I believe that here, tonight, we have had a spirit of good will shown clearly on all sides of the House, and I believe it is there in India in spite of some of the wild words that have been passed in various-resolutions by Congress. Some of the differences are really due to the misunderstanding of words. The Under-Secretary quoted one significant phrase from a Congress resolution which repudiated "the orbit of Imperialism.
It is hideous to many of us here; we want people to understand that the British Empire to-day is not an Empire in the old Roman sense at all. It is a great co-operative Commonwealth, bound together by ties of mutual service and common loyalty. It is not the possession of any one State; it is a commonwealth and it is that commonwealth which we want India to share. It has been pointed out that there are many grave reasons why Indians would not wish to leave such an association, but there is also another.
Surely this great fellowship must be kept together. I do not believe for one moment that the Indians in India would wish to separate themselves from their fellow-countrymen in those other parts of the Empire, but we must be kept together by bonds of trust and good will and not by any sense of superiority or domination, still less of exploitation. We have great services to render to one another—England to India and India to other parts of the great Commonwealth. I am not thinking merely of material assistance which we can give to one another, but of the cultural help that each can bring to the other.
India, with its glorious memories of the great teachings of the Buddha, the noble achievements of Asoka, and the great days of Akbar, through its teachers and mystics, like Tukaram, the Mahratta poet saint, and, in our day, through Rabindranath Tagore and Mr. Gandhi himself, has contributions to make to us.
We, too, have our contribution to make to India. I am not thinking of the material help that has come through railroads and irrigation, or of the great structure of justice and ordered life that has been given to generations, but of the spiritual heritage of Western civilisation and the birth of freedom and political ideas in the sense that we understand them to-day. Much has already come about as the result of contacts of Indian with English thought and with democratic institutions worked in close collaboration.
Indian ideas of political liberty have been nurtured on the writings of Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill. Something, too, that Indians may remember some day with gratitude is that all over their country there are graves of Englishmen who have given their lives in the service of the people. Over those graves there might in many cases have been written with equal truth the epitaph that Lawrence chose for himself: Here lies John Lawrence , who tried to do his duty.
That has been the great thing that has been given to India, but greater than all have been the teachings of one whose life has influenced Mr. Gandhi himself, devout Hindu though he is, and whose work has been represented in India through the lives of thousands of quiet, humble missionaries, who have striven for the uplift of the oppressed in following the teachings and spirit of their Master. It is these things that bind us together in one great Commonwealth. I shall not intrude on the patience of the House for more than a few minutes; but I would like to try and bring back this discussion from the extraordinary generalities to which we have just listened to the particular problem we have to face in the Motion before us.
I think we are all intensely glad that in this discussion no word has been said which will add to the enormous difficulties of the Viceroy, or of the political leaders whose path to-day is not an easy one to tread. But, frankly, for the first time in nearly 40 years' connection with India in facing the problem before the House I find myself baffled.
I have rarely encountered an occasion when I could not see clearly the path before us; but on this particular issue it has become so overwhelmed with racial and communal issues that it is difficult to see precisely how we can move with advantage. Nobody is satisfied with the position where we have to pass orders which lead to a suspension, we hope temporary, of responsible government in India.
We listened with appreciation to what the right hon. Benn said when he reminded us of the special responsibility these conditions impose on this House. As we look round this House at the moment, we can appreciate the sense of responsibility with which it regards this new burden. Friend will not mind my reminding him that this same responsibility was borne by this House up to , and it is only since that date that it has devolved any part of it on Indian shoulders.
The House should mark, too, that since the resignation of the Congress Ministries there has been no relaxation or resiling from the general policies pursued when the responsible Ministries were actually in office, although some of those policies aroused strong opposition. The policy of prohibition was being maintained: even the errors in the law had been corrected.
True, the Salis Tax in Bombay had been dropped, with general approval and the Act was unworkable; and Hindi had been made optional instead of compulsory. But, broadly, the policies of the responsible Ministries were being followed by the new administrations established. It is to me, and I think to those who follow Indian affairs, a real tragedy that a great step forward—the greatest step—in the direction of further self-government in India has brought us to a condition where we have inevitably to sanction these special measures.
The Act of was a great Act worthy of a great Parliament. It was the most striking devolution of authority from the Mother country to a Dominion ever made in our history. Yet the fact remains that so far from inducing that higher unity in India which was the hope and intention of Parliament, that Act has left the major communities more widely asunder. While this House must withhold any support to what has come to be called the Pakistak movement, having for its object the creation of a chain of independent Moslem States, stretching from the North West to the East, surely it is wise to analyse the causes which lie behind it.
It is not a movement of to-day or yesterday; it goes back at least 20 years and has continued right up to this date. It springs from a real sense of uneasiness in the Mohammedan mind at the situation created by what they call Hindu Raj. As many hon. Members know, the Moslem League demanded a Royal Commission of inquiry into the injustices they had experienced in the working of the Act of I am confident that if that Royal Commission had been appointed, it would have found no substantial grievances.
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But a distinguished Governor of the United Provinces had placed on record that while there was no major grievance, and while it was not true to say that Governors had neglected their responsibility for the protection of minorities, it was true that there had grown up among the Mohammedan community a feeling that they were under alien rule; that they had no part in the administration; and that in the small places others with the ear of Ministers were able to obtain advantages which were denied to them.
This had made Moslems more united and resolute than ever before. That, I think, is one of the things we must recognise if we are going to work for a greater sense of unity in India as time goes on.
Surely there is one ques- tion above all others before us now! Congress Ministers resigned their office—and I hope the House will mark that these Ministers did not resign from any sense of dissatisfaction with their position under the constitution; they were functioning well and efficiently and had every scope for the development of their activities, their policies and their ideas. They were drawn away from office not from any want of confidence by Governors or the Legislative Councils but at the orders of the All-India Congress Committee. I do not say that all interventions of the All-India Congress Committee in Provincial affairs is always a bad thing.
Once or twice it has been of advantage; but no doubt it took a form contrary to our own ideas of what a true democracy is. But our main point is that which has been put so clearly by the right hon. Member for Gorton and endorsed by the hon. Schuster ; it is—Is there a way out of this impasse? For a period since the responsible Ministers withdrew there has been comparative calm.
I hope that period will not lead us into a dangerous acquiescence in the embers which lie beneath the impasse and which may be fanned into flames. We have heard a great deal of the two parties, Congress and the Moslem League, which must be brought together. Surely there are four parties which must co-operate if we are to have a real unified constitution for India. There are the Hindus and the Moslem League. There are the scheduled classes and there are the Indian States.
How can you ignore Indian States which comprise one-third of India and one-quarter of the population? That is a chimera. Then again there is the Imperial Parliament. It seems to me that however far we may go in giving responsibilities to a body in India for the framing of their own constitution, Parliament cannot entirely devolve its responsibilities; it cannot entirely slough off its share in the work, because it will have to implement by an Act whatever principles may be adopted or whatever recommendations may be agreed upon.
I want to urge with all the emphasis I can that we should not be lulled into a sense of false optimism by the comparative quiescence of political feeling in the last six months, but rather seize this opportunity to press on with any conceivable scheme which will bring the parties together and lay down the principles of a constitution which can be worked. For instance, tariff walls were raised to protect the Indian cotton industry against cheap British imports.
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There were two incontrovertible economic benefits provided by India. It was a captive market for British goods and services, and served defence needs by maintaining a large standing army at no cost to the British taxpayer. However, the economic balance sheet of the empire remains a controversial topic and the debate has revolved around whether the British developed or retarded the Indian economy.
Among the benefits bequeathed by the British connection were the large scale capital investments in infrastructure, in railways, canals and irrigation works, shipping and mining; the commercialisation of agriculture with the development of a cash nexus; the establishment of an education system in English and of law and order creating suitable conditions for the growth of industry and enterprise; and the integration of India into the world economy. Conversely, the British are criticised for leaving Indians poorer and more prone to devastating famines; exhorting high taxation in cash from an inpecunious people; destabilising cropping patterns by forced commercial cropping; draining Indian revenues to pay for an expensive bureaucracy including in London and an army beyond India's own defence needs; servicing a huge sterling debt, not ensuring that the returns from capital investment were reinvested to develop the Indian economy rather than reimbursed to London; and retaining the levers of economic power in British hands.
The foundation of the Indian National Congress in as an all India, secular political party, is widely regarded as a key turning point in formalising opposition to the Raj. It developed from its elite intellectual middle-class confines, and a moderate, loyalist agenda, to become by the inter-war years, a mass organisation. It was an organisation which, despite the tremendous diversity of the sub-continent, was remarkable in achieving broad consensus over the decades. Also split within Congress were those who advocated violence and those who stressed non-violence.
Yet it was not a homogenous organisation and was often dominated by factionalism and opposing political strategies. This was exemplified by its splintering in into the so-called 'moderate' and 'extremist' wings, which reunited 10 years later. Another example were the 'pro-changers' who believed working the constitutional structures to weaken it from within and 'no-changers' who wanted to distance themselves from the Raj during the s.
There was also a split within Congress between those who believed that violence was a justifiable weapon in the fight against imperial oppression whose most iconic figure was Subhas Chandra Bose, who went on to form the Indian National Army , and those who stressed non-violence. The towering figure in this latter group was Mahatma Gandhi, who introduced a seismic new idiom of opposition in the shape of non-violent non-cooperation or 'satyagraha' meaning 'truth' or 'soul' force'. Gandhi oversaw three major nationwide movements which achieved varying degrees of success in , and in These mobilised the masses on the one hand, while provoking the authorities into draconian repression.
Much to Gandhi's distress, self-restraint among supporters often gave way to violence. The British Raj unravelled quickly in the s, perhaps surprising after the empire in the east had so recently survived its greatest challenge in the shape of Japanese expansionism. The reasons for independence were multifaceted and the result of both long and short term factors. The pressure from the rising tide of nationalism made running the empire politically and economically very challenging and increasingly not cost effective. This pressure was embodied as much in the activities of large pan-national organisations like the Congress as in pressure from below - from the 'subalterns' through the acts of peasant and tribal resistance and revolt, trade union strikes and individual acts of subversion and violence.
With US foreign policy pressurising the end of western imperialism, it seemed only a matter of time before India gained its freedom. There were further symptoms of the disengagement from empire. European capital investment declined in the inter-war years and India went from a debtor country in World War One to a creditor in World War Two.
Britain's strategy of a gradual devolution of power, its representation to Indians through successive constitutional acts and a deliberate 'Indianisation' of the administration, gathered a momentum of its own. As a result, India moved inexorably towards self-government. The actual timing of independence owed a great deal to World War Two and the demands it put on the British government and people. The Labour party had a tradition of supporting Indian claims for self-rule, and was elected to power in after a debilitating war which had reduced Britain to her knees.
Furthermore, with US foreign policy pressurising the end of western subjugation and imperialism, it seemed only a matter of time before India gained its freedom. The growth of Muslim separatism from the late 19th century and the rise of communal violence from the s to the virulent outbreaks of , were major contributory factors in the timing and shape of independence.
However, it was only from the late s that it became inevitable that independence could only be achieved if accompanied by a partition. This partition would take place along the subcontinent's north-western and north-eastern boundaries, creating two sovereign nations of India and Pakistan. Suspension of non-cooperation leads to renewed competition between Hindu and Muslim political elites for seats in the new provincial councils and to a deterioration of relations at all levels most visibly expressed in increasing communal riots.
Muslim leaders begin to move away from Congress as it comes under mounting pressure from Hindu-interest organisations not to make concessions to Muslim political demands. Gandhi launches further all-India Civil Disobedience campaigns, now based on the demand for purna swaraj full independence from British rule. This time Muslim participation is very low compared to , with the exception of the North West Frontier Province where the radical Khudai Khidmatgar Servants of God movement of the local Pashtuns enthusiastically endorses civil disobedience.
A day of peaceful protest in Peshawar is met with considerable violence from the British military resulting in over , predominantly Muslim, civilian deaths. Under increasing pressure, the British government passes legislation the Government of India Act, conceding a significant measure of self-government to the provinces of India while retaining full control at the centre. In the elections that follow, held under an extended though still limited franchise and the maintenance of separate electorates for Hindus and Muslims, Congress secures a comfortable victory and forms ministries in six out of eleven provinces Congress resigns its ministries in protest against the British unilateral declaration of war on Germany on behalf of India and the lack of progress on its demand for a transfer of power to a representative government at the centre.
There follows a bitterly fought general election in India, still on a very restricted franchise, and reveals the polarisation of middle class public opinion. Congress again wins the vast majority of non-Muslim seats, but the Muslim League achieves a spectacular result, reversing its poor showing of a decade earlier and winning the bulk of Muslim seats at both central and provincial levels.
A new interim government, consisting of leaders of both parties, is set up with the aim of preparing for full independence, but is unable to operate harmoniously amid escalating communal riots and atrocities in northern and eastern India. The Labour government despatches a three-man Cabinet Mission with the objectives of securing Indian agreement to a representative government to whom power would be transferred and of arresting the apparent slide towards civil war.
The Mission proposes the maintenance of a united, centrally-governed India but with a large measure of provincial autonomy and the right of Muslim-majority provinces to act in concert to defend their interests, if required. The plan is rejected, for different reasons, by Congress and the Muslim League. Partition is now seen as the only solution by both parties. At the same time, the British decide to bring forward their departure from India by a year. In June , Viceroy Mountbatten broadcasts a rushed and incoherent partition plan to Indians, announcing that British withdrawal and the division of the country was to take place in just 2 months.
The social ruptures and atrocities that accompany the unfolding of this time-compressed partition plan, particularly along the partitioned borderlands of Punjab and Bengal, ensure that the new nation-states of India and Pakistan are born with profound mutual distrust and enmity. The cause of national identity, or the result of it? Created, or natural and pre-ordained? Our exploration of borders starts here. What are the impacts of partition on the people affected by it? Here we look at trauma, identity politics and escalation of violence in India and Pakistan. What chances are there for peace between Pakistan and India?